27 November 2016

There is a tipping point in every aspect of business and life, so when does managing productivity become counter-productive? When is that tipping point and would you recognise it in time?guardian article

Yesterday I read an article about productivity and micromanagement, and how some of the world’s most recognisable brands have, in my opinion, sailed past that tipping point long ago.

The article describes “how managers came to rule the workplace.” Just this phrase to me is completely wrong.

I have long been a believer of ‘upside-down management’ – a concept introduced to me by James Timpson. This management structure flips tradition on its head, making the client-facing teams the most empowered; the people who shape the business, not the managers or CEO.

It’s something we’ve employed at UKFast for many years. Our account management, sales and support teams are those who dictate where our product portfolio goes, what we need to focus on as a business and how we best meet the needs of our clients.

It makes perfect sense. These teams are the people who speak with our clients every day, they know what our clients need and what we need to do to fulfil their needs. Feeding this information back up to the management, we then work to make the changes that are needed. We work for them!

Empowering people is not only incredibly motivating, it is also productive, efficient and eases the extraordinary strain of having to micromanage teams. Investing so much time and energy into authoritarian micromanagement seems like a huge waste to me. Why not channel that energy into training and development, into positively impacting the business’s and team’s future?

So reading about micromanagement to increase productivity was a completely alien concept to me. The article described one internet giant monitoring the time it takes for employees at its HQ to reply to an email. The report also claims that the management level at the Telegraph installed heat and motion sensors at its employees’ desks to track when they were there or not – the sensors simply appeared without warning.

Keeping healthy is so important and something we encourage @UKFast

Keeping healthy is so important and something we encourage @UKFast

How demotivating! Can you imagine going into work on Monday morning to be told that you were going to be monitored by the second or that heat sensors would track how long you spent at your desk? It’s absurd!

We have a completely different way of looking at productivity at UKFast. Understandably, no one person can sit at their desk from 9am until 6pm. It’s not healthy! A quick tea break and a bite to eat at lunch isn’t enough – this is how people burn out.

We designed UKFast Campus to be a space where people are free to take time out from their day when they need it. There’s an onsite gym and steam room so that when the team are feeling tired or stressed or need a moment away from their desks, they can go blow off some steam, get some endorphins going and boost their energy with a workout. Or they can play MarioKart in our retro games loft, or have a nap in one of our sleeping pods.

When you give people the freedom to do what they need to, they will invariably become significantly more productive.

Instead of channeling their focus toward micromanagement, if these big businesses looked at the bigger issues and remembered that their teams are made up of people not facts and figures, they would be able to boost their results immeasurably in no time.

We look to find the most broken thing. We do regular feedback surveys and do our best to tackle any issues before they grow into problems. Along my business journey so far, I have learned that sometimes people just need to know that they are empowered, they’re cared for and they’re valued.

We’re still learning and I am on a mission to create the greatest workplace. It’s a big challenge, different people have different needs, but I know for a fact that no-one enjoys being micromanaged to this extent. Trust is hugely important in any business; installing sensors and monitoring time to such an extent completely destroys that layer of trust. It is incredibly damaging.

I hope that these businesses learn this sooner rather than later.

The UKFast management team in our weekly catch up

The UKFast management team in our weekly catch up

Going back to the article, I agree with Marissa Mayer’s request to have employees working in the office rather than at home. For me, there is something special about the collaboration and camaraderie that comes with working together in one environment, not as the journalist reports “if we can’t see you, we don’t trust you.”

It’s quite right that being chained to an office can be counter-productive, but this, again, comes back to the business owners whose responsibility it is to shape an environment that people want to spend time in, an engaging space where people are motivated and comfortable. However, I don’t agree that managers rule the workplace; they’re there to facilitate the needs of their teams and of the clients not to peer over shoulders with stopwatches.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How does your business hierarchy work? How do you manage productivity?

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